Digest: Downergate update
The American Meat Institute's president asked Congress why the USDA is sending a mixed message with the record recall of Downergate meat, even as the Fed says it poses only the remotest health risk. Oh, and that Hallmark/Westland's bad behavior was a "very plant-specific anomaly" (Meatpoultry.com). The USDA promised Congress it would try harder to catch those one or two bad apples, such as by making inspectors' review of animal welfare more random (New York Times). Ignoring the very deep PR doo-doo his agency is in, AgSec Ed Schafer said that he would not endorse an outright ban on downer cows entering the food supply or support stiffer penalties for regulatory violations (Washington Post).
The Humane Society is suing the USDA for creating this “loophole” for potentially sick cows. The smoking hoof comes near the end of the story: a 2006 audit by the agency’s inspector general found that during a nine-month examination of 12 slaughterhouses, 29 cows unable to walk were slaughtered. Twenty of those "exhibited no evidence of an injury that would explain why they could not walk, raising the possibility of a more serious illness" (NYT).
At least two USDA inspectors from the disgraced plant have been placed on paid leave of absence (WSJ). Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the slaughterhouse worker shown in the video says his client was just doing what management told him (WSJ). General Mills and Nestle have initiated recalls of Downergate-tainted processed-food products (Meatpoulty.com). California has posted a partial list of Downergate meat distributors.
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